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Customer Review

66 of 80 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Rollicking Social Satire; Best High-Brow Read of the Summer, June 13, 2012
This review is from: Seating Arrangements (Hardcover)
Plenty of excellent plot rehashings by other reviewers, so just two points:

1. Shipstead writes beautifully, cleverly, and brilliantly. I described this book to my publishing friends as Moby-Dick-as-wedding-crasher meets "Rachel Getting Married," the Nantucket version. But that doesn't even begin to do the book justice; Shipstead (who is up for a National Magazine Award in fiction for her short story "La Moretta," which I highly recommend googling and reading in one deep, desperate, devastating breath) works magic here. The characters are delightfully flawed, deliciously inept, morally compromised, but, ultimately, forgivably -even lovably- human. If you are a fan of contemporary American literary fiction in the vein of "A Visit from the Good Squad," "The Marriage Plot," and "Freedom," this should be your next read. I laughed out loud, marveled at exceptionally vivid descriptions (Shipstead sure can turn a phrase), stayed up until the wee hours eager to discover what delights awaited me in the next chapter, and re-read favorite passages aloud to my partner- surely all signs of an excellent book.

2. I imagine some readers picked up "Seating Arrangements" hoping for a breezy feel-good summer beach read with a likable female heroine overcoming personal struggles and ultimately finding love and/or inner peace. Which "Seating Arrangements" most certainly is not, thank god. Shipstead is a literary talent whose dazzling prose and convincing character development belie her youth (wait, you mean a young female writer can have success writing about a middle-aged white guy? Crazy!). To the detractors who find the flittings-about of the down-at-the-heels New England WASP set too 1% for their liking, let us remember this book takes place during the height of the Iraq War, a good year or two before the markets tanked and the recession hit. But no matter; are we to dismiss all great books about the rich when we ourselves are in pecuniary turmoil? Kill off Jay Gatsby in chapter one, leave Newland Archer in Newport, pluck Holden Caulfield from prep school and send the kid to good old public school? I for one am delighted to add Winn van Meter -warts and all- to the pantheon of deep-pocketed, deeply-flawed, and utterly memorable American literary protagonists.
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Showing 1-2 of 2 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jun 16, 2012 9:00:17 AM PDT
Bird woman says:
Alan Mackerel - I hope I enjoy this book as much as I enjoyed reading your review!!

Posted on Aug 26, 2012 9:48:33 AM PDT
Monticello says:
Alan Mackerel - great review! To add to your literary genealogy (Moby Dick by Rachel gets married), I'd add one or two of Jane Austen's, like Emma or P&P, told from the disaffected father's point of view...Mr Bennett, disappointed at midlife? Mr Woodhouse, crabby that Isabelle and Mrs Weston have left? boggles the mind?! Shipstead is great!
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